Friday, February 22, 2008

Mad/50 and a Mad Dash

I teach a class at PCC tomorrow (Basic Beading) and then at 4 am on Sunday, the Sweetie and I make a mad dash for the airport and a little sunshine in Tulum, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula . . . I won't be posting for the week I'm gone, but you can look forward to cool travel photos of Mayan ruins and lovely beaches when I return . . .

And this is the Mad/50 shadowbox shrine as it stands now. I have a feeling there are a few more details to incorporate, but the basic structure is there. I used an old family photo given to me by Vicki Lind, as well as found crow feathers and old keys . . . it ended up being a very hopeful piece . . . in keeping with its installation on the Spring Equinox.

When we get back from our trip, Spring should be well on its way. Every year, the cherry blossoms are out by March 8 (International Women's Day) and even if the weather is crappy, Portland's celebration of this event - almost always on the Sunday closest to March 8 - feels like the beginning of hope!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

DEMO! Sweater Reconstruction

It's time for another crafty demo, this one inspired by my love of (slightly) wacky clothes and my (slightly) compulsive shopping habit . . . How many of you out there (be honest now!) have clothing currently in your closet that you purchased with the best of intentions . . . and have never actually worn? It can be new or scavenged from the Goodwill; it can be something that seemed great at the time or that was purchased because "it's cheap and it'll work if I just tweak it a little bit." The issue of the gifted or inherited garment can be handled with much less guilt . . . and Sweet Sassafras does it with such style here . . .

I, however, have many of these high-guilt purchased items. One that has been nagging at my conscience is a baggy striped sweater purchased at Old Navy. It filled me with visions of 80's-inspired funk and hipness and legging-clad comfort when I bought it. In truth, every time I tried it on as part of an actual outfit, it was comfortable but it made me feel . . . frumpy. Here's the sweater:

So, after the last time I tried it on several weeks ago, I got crafty. Well, actually, I just pulled the scissors out and attacked the sweater. This has, luckily for us all, resulted in an actual demo - yes, something you CAN safely try at home . . .

DEMO: Sweater Reconstruction

Normally, cutting into a sweater is a quick path to running, unraveling madness. Two big exceptions: wool sweaters that have been "felted" or "fulled" by washing them with detergent in hot water and then dried or sweaters that have a very fine knit like a t-shirt. This particular sweater has a very fine knit - while cutting should be done with caution in these cases, it can be done. Here, I cut the sweater off about 8" under the armpit - removing a 10" length of sweater tube from the bottom of the sweater.

Next, I turned the tube inside out, and did a rough measurement of its circumference as compared to the circumference of the sweater's neck opening . . . Yes! The sweater tube could become a cowl neck! (If you have a tendency towards sanity, you will do the measuring bit before you cut into the sweater.)

Finding that they were pretty close, I pinned the sweater tube to the sweater's neck. I started by lining up one side seam (the one with the tag) with the back of the neck, and lining up the other side seam with the point of the "v" in the front of the sweater. Then, I pinned them in place, with the "right" side of the tube meeting the "right" side of the sweater's neck. (In other words, as I pinned in the photo below, I was looking at the outside of the sweater and the inside of the tube)

Then, I pinned the rest of the tube to the neck. The tube was a little bit bigger than the neck of the sweater, and so I made and pinned a few "tucks" in the tube on each side, close to the shoulders.

Finally, I stitched the tube to the sweater's neck. I used a zig-zag stitch, and a ball point needle for knits on my sewing machine. I did two parallel rows of stitching around the neck to attach the cowl securely and to prevent unraveling. I also did a row of zig-zag stitching around the "hem." This should keep it from running. (Stretching it a bit as you stitch will result in a ruffled hem - not what I was going for!)

And here's the final product - a cropped cowl sweater worn over a long black knit tunic and jeans . . . I kind of like the way it plays with proportion, and I love the stripes. I even going to wear this out in public today to meet with Sister Diane for coffee. And I may feel a bit, er, "fluffy" in this outfit (not so slimming, really) but I sure as heck don't feel frumpy!

Mission accomplished.

Added Later for the Very Ambitious and Inspired: It would also be possible to do something similar with old t-shirts. There are some wonderful books on t-shirt reconstruction, like Generation T (a lot of designs for the young, slim, and fit - but easily adaptable and so many ideas!!) Another thing to keep in mind is that if you've got several garments - sweaters or t-shirts - with similar weights, stretchiness, and fiber content, you can mix and match. Try taking a tube and sleeves from one sweater and attaching them to another one . . . There are also some great books out there on sweater reconstruction. One of my favorites is Second-Time Cool, which has a very alterna-grrl aesthetic while providing basic info on how to do different embroidery stitches, knit and crochet! Subversive Seamster also has some great deconstruction/reconstruction ideas for thrift store finds . . . lots of eye candy and plenty of basic construction advice.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Mad/50 Shrine: Progress Notes

I got quite a bit done on the Mad/50 shadowbox shrine project . . . I made a few sketches to capture some of the ideas that had been racing around in my head.
Normally, I don't do a lot of sketching - but I've been wanting to record my creative process and understand more about how my ideas develop. So, I attempted to capture some of the ideas that were floating around as the project marinated. Naturally, as soon as I attempted to get them down on paper, they changed. Even the medium - simple pencil on paper - dictated changes in the designs.
Then, I got into the studio and started playing around with objects and materials inside the freshly gessoed box. I found some things I'd forgotten about, like this mylar map of somewhere "outside" in Washington state.

I also took a little birdhouse and covered it with parts of an architectural drawing I had outlining plans for a heating system. The map of Portland added some color, which I liked. It seemed appropriate to have a little color given that the installation will happen on the Spring Equinox.

I certainly don't have the layout finalized - I doubt very much that the finished project will end up looking like either the sketches or the sample layouts I did. In fact, as often happens, the objects I found during my experimentation have already spawned two new and different shadowboxes - items that didn't work for the Mad/50 project but cried out to be used and still related to the "home" theme. I completed one of these "spawn projects" today (it utilizes an x-ray I got at SCRAP a few days ago, a Monopoly house, and some hand-printed fabric) and the other is well underway. I'll have pictures of those for you in a few days . . .

As for the Mad/50 project, I committed to using the map, painting over parts of it and extending some of the lines to make it feel more like an integral part of the box. I'm considering actually building a nest, because I don't think the birdhouse is quite right . . . and there's another shadowbox that seems to need it!

And here it is in context - the studio!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Artist Seeking Focus . . . or Really Big Box

The rant I'm sharing with you today started off as a response to this post over at futuregirl:

"When you're spread so thin, does it keep you from getting the really great ideas? Am I keeping myself from really shining? Oh, I don't know. I like doing lots of different things. Could I even *just* crochet or *only* embroider ... even if I decreed it? Probably not.

You know, this is one of my eternal struggles ... deciding where to focus my energy. Conventional wisdom says that you should pick one thing and put everything you've got into it. But I've never been conventional, and I don't see any reason to start now. :)"
Do I feel spread thin sometimes? You bet! Recently, I made a conscious decision to keep doing the analytical sub-contracting work, the work for the other part of my brain. It's exhausting, but it pays well and it keeps me balanced. Working that part of my brain - in moderation - keeps my creative juices flowing and structures my time enough that when I do have time to work in the studio or do things to support my creativity business, I'm much more likely to jump in and actually follow through. It also takes some of the pressure off of feeling like every creative endeavor needs to be profitable.

Yet, even as an artist, I keep feeling like I *should* have a niche, like, "Oh, yeah, she's that encaustic collage girl" or "She does the greatest things with reclaimed fibers!" or "Bridget's the cigar box shrine lady."

But heck no! I can't even fit myself firmly into the "art" or "craft" camp . . . I seem to delight in having my hands in every possible pot, mixing it up as much as humanly possible . . . as a perfect example, I spent part of yesterday researching arts organizations and artist associations - it's a great way to network and learn about exhibit opportunities and teaching opportunities. There's the International Association of Collage and Assemblage Artists (ok, but does fiber work fit into any of that? what about jewelry making? or printmaking?), the Studio Art Quilters Association (hmmm . . . I don't technically quilt much of anything even though I incorporate fiber into the work, and it is art . . . but what about encaustics?), the Surface Design Association (ok, so that's just about anything I might do on fabric, but what about the collage and shadowbox shrines?). Uh-huh. I could end up shelling out a small fortune on Association fees alone . . .

Maybe I should start the Association of People Who Like to Make Things and Teach Other People to Make Things or The Organization of REALLY REALLY Mixed-Media Artists (TORRMMA, for short).

On a more serious note, focus is a challenge when you work in so many different media . . . and have so many different interests. I struggle with that in the blog, too - feeling like I should just focus on one or two things . . . but the diversity is part of what keeps me engaged.


Friday, February 15, 2008

At Home: Memory

I recently finished reading a book by a friend of mine, Jill Kelly, called Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman. It is the story of one woman's struggle with addictive behaviors, a struggle I could definitely identify with.

In her book, Jill Kelly says:

"Memories are not necessarily the truth. But we tend to live with them as if they are. They create those stories, those beliefs that govern our decisions."
Anyone who has ever tried to fill an internal void by drinking or eating or shopping or any of a hundred other things has a story about that void and how it came to be there. The fears, the pain, the loneliness, the emptiness we are trying to blot out . . . and the memories that serve as our rationalization for how we choose to cope with it. Memories that grow sharper and yet more blurred around the edges the more emotional we are about them.

These memories are what I deal with in my art. Visual, visceral, emotional. And only true in the sense that I remember them and they have shaped me.

I stopped believing in absolute truths a long time ago. Truth is largely a product of time and perspective. It is almost impossible for a human being to report on an event objectively; we are hardwired to assign meaning to what we observe and experience. That said, I do my very best to be honest . . . and I find that it is an incredibly complicated thing far more frequently than I would like. Real life happens in the gray areas.

All of these thoughts have been jostling in my head as I've been thinking about the Mad/50 shrine installation over the past several weeks. Home. My memories of how it was and how I thought it should be, my longing for it, the empty place that was my lack of it, and all of the things I did to feel a sense of belonging, to feel at home, somewhere, with someone.

That sense of home and belonging is something I am only now - at 37 - beginning to feel on a regular basis, and it is still intermittent. Fleeting.

Mad/50: Shadowbox Shrine in Process

I'm diving head first into a big project this weekend - a drawer-sized shadowbox shrine for installation at Mad/50, the groovy outdoor community art space at the corner of Madison and SE 50th in Portland. Here's the space, which I photographed this fall at the opening of the Day of the Dead installation.

It's protected from the elements, and the installation space for the shadowbox shrine is about 20" x 26". I'm working with a drawer, this drawer in fact, as the base.

The drawer is about 15" x 19", giving me a little bit of wiggle room if I want the shrine to extend outside the confines of the box. Which I probably will. So far, I have the box gessoed, and have been playing with some imagery and elements.

The theme is "home." It's a theme I've been working with a lot lately. Reconciling my desire for a home with a desire for freedom, trying to figure out what really makes up a sense of home, of being at home, of feeling at home. At home in your body, in a place, in a family or community. Needless to say, there are very few places or people with whom I feel at home. Hence the exploration.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A busy weekend . . .

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a week since I posted! A lot has happened in that time . . . Mr. Mojo and I went down to CubeSpace on Saturday for the Stuffed Misfit Stitchathon and Suzi Mayer's cool hat class.

Here's Mr. Mojo hanging out with Eva, one of the founders of CubeSpace.

There were lots of shrunken sweaters and cool fibers . . .

And people cutting up socks . . .

And people making wonderfully crazy hats!

Here's Suzi and her hubby, George, modeling some of their creations! Suzi doesn't have a website, but I'll be sure to let you know when she runs this class again . . .

And here's Mr. Mojo . . . flirting with a lovely sock and glove creature birthed at the event! Looks like one of the participants crafted Mr. Mojo a soulmate . . . after all, she's got rainbow eyes and ribbon wings . . . . what's not to love?

Stay Tuned: The winner of the 100th Post Flag Giveaway was randomly selected this weekend . . . madness is sure to ensue.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Extreme Craft: Knitted Dissections, Paintball, and Monsters, Oh My!

Extreme, adj. 1. Outermost; farthest; edge or border. 2. Going to great lengths; utmost in degree; of the best or worst that can exist in reality or in imagination; excessive; immoderate. 3. Last; beyond which there is none. 4. Radical; advanced. 5. Drastic; very severe.
-adapted from the Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged

Whether you define your object-making and meaning-making in the world as art or craft or some delightful hybrid of the two (as I do), occasionally going to extremes is a great way to stretch your creative muscles. Part of the creative journey is taking risks - sometimes, those risks push the edge. And sometimes, they push you to places better - or worse - than you could have imagined.

That's part of why I love the blog Extreme Craft. Who could resist a hand-knit frog open on a dissection board from CraftyHedgehog?

I was also inspired by the blog author's recent effort to try something "extreme" with his own ceramic art. The result? Using a paintball gun to fire capsules of china paint at blank plates!

And then there's my friend Sven over at Scarlet Star Studios, who illustrated a monster a day on the Monster Month Blog in October, and just published them in the Monster Month Book (with text by famed world-traveling cryptozoologist Professor Ichbonnsen and design assistance from Gretchin). Below is an illustration by Sven of the Trick Squilligoss, one of my favorites (after the Zompire Bat). The images are luscious, and Sven's experience creating three-dimensional puppets for stop-mo animation shows through in the construction of these creatures. Sven did the illustrations based on elaborate descriptions provided to him by the globe-trotting Ichbonnsen. Note the "faintly bioluminescent eyes" on the Trick Squilligoss.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the book release party last week - and while the Professor was unable to attend, I did get Sven to sign my copy of the book.

And thanks to Linda for the picture of me and Sven - Linda's just taken the biggest risk of all.

Quitting her day job to work full-time as an artist.

Now that's what I call extreme craft.

More Challenges, or There's Gesso on my Breakfast!

Note: Don't miss it - I sneaked in my 100th post a few days ago, and have offered to design a flag for one randomly selected blogger who leaves a comment. I'll be doing the random drawing Saturday - the selection that is! The flag creation will be anything but random.

Challenges are a cool part of the Blogosphere. I had so much fun with Michael5000's Oregon Flag Makeover Challenge (here's the whole sordid story of my flag design process, in reverse, in case you missed it) that I've been keeping my eyes peeled for other creative challenges.

Two that caught my eye are Bigezbear's photo of the week challenge - this week's theme was "Breakfast" - and Jen Worden's weekly art challenge. Jen's project this week involved taking a magazine image, outlining it in black marker, then filling in the colored areas with gesso. I really liked the effect, and decided to try it out.

Here's My Breakfast:

The whole eggs-in-toast thing is a big comfort food for me. Spelt toast. Organic, cage free eggs. From happy chickens! The mug of coffee is not in the picture, but can be assumed. I was probably trying to drink from it and take the picture at the same time.

And here's my gessoed magazine image:

It's from Real Simple magazine - a photograph to illustrate an article on headaches. Really, I only buy Real Simple for the pictures.

And now, here's two great challenges that taste great together!

I love the effect of the hard outlines and selective gessoing on the photograph . . . and I'd love to hear about any cool creative challenges out there in the Blogosphere that you are particularly fond of!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Just a Few More Flags . . .

I know, I know . . . you thought that with the earlier post I was finally all done with the flags for the Flag Makeover Challenge . . .

Not so. I kept fiddling while the Sweetie and I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer (we're working our way through all the seasons) and then I wanted to scan them and share them.

It all started because I really did like the "yin yang" balance idea, but I wasn't sure it was really flaggy enough.

This one came out well - again, green for mossy tree-filled land and blue for wondrous fresh and salt water; the salmon as representative of the history, the future, and the natural resources of our state; all held together by the golden swirl of coastline, of balance . . .

So, if one looks good, I thought, how about two? That's even more balanced . . .

Of course, I have the green representing land - maybe I need a mammal on the flag, too . . .

Hmmm . . . should the Beaver be on land? What if the green was on the other side?

Ah, yes. "What if?" and on-line Scrabble. Two things that will keep a girl awake on a work night.

Of course, as the Sweetie would say, why be ruled by the tyranny of the "or" when you can embrace the "and"?

M5K, check your in-box.

Drawing: The 100th Post

Here we are - my 100th post. It arrived a lot faster than I thought it would.

In Honor of the 100th Post

To honor the 100th post and the end of January - A Drawing (almost) Every Day Month - and the culmination of the L&TofM5K Flag Makeover Contest, I'm going to do something really cool. For you, the readers . . . I will randomly select one person who leaves a comment on this post, and I will design them a flag! Imagine - your own personal flag, designed by me!

Defining Drawing

From the Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, Second Edition:

draw, v.t.

  1. pull; haul; drag
  2. to pull back the drawstring of (a bow)
  3. to attract; charm; entice
  4. to bring forth; elicit
  5. to take into the lungs; breathe in; inhale
  6. to pull out; take out; remove; extract
  7. to bring about as a result; cause to happen; bring on
  8. to pull out of shape; distort

I love these different definitions, these different ways of looking at a word that we typically think of as meaning mark-making, or making marks as a way of representing something we see. We might also think of the mark-making as something that elicits a response, something you breathe in, an essence you extract from something, something that you distort as you view it, something you use to charm a viewer . . .

And Here's the Flag

Very flaggy. With a leaping Salmon. The green field represents an abstraction of the mossy, tree-filled state of Oregon; the blue band on the top represents the Columbia River; the wider blue band on the left represents the Pacific Ocean. The gold band running North-South represents the Cascade Mountain Range; the gold band running East-West represents both the Oregon Trail and our trade relationships with Asia and exploration of the sea; and the Salmon represents our natural resources and a long tradition of both Native American peoples and more recent immigration. The slight crookedness of the lines, well, that's just an accident.